A little over a week ago, Canes and Coffee ran a poll to select an all-time roster of 20 for the Carolina Hurricanes. You can find the voting HERE, and you can find my write up on the 20 players selected HERE.
A separate poll to rank the players at the different positions yielded the following:
All-time Carolina Hurricanes first team
Voting yielded a first team of left wing Ray Whitney, center Ron Francis and right wing Erik Cole with Glen Wesley and Justin Faulk on defense, Cam Ward in goal and Peter Laviolette as the head coach.
Rankings by position were:
Center: Ron Francis, Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Staal, Matt Cullen.
Left Wing: Ray Whitney, Jeff Skinner, Cory Stillman, Sami Kapanen.
Right Wing: Erik Cole, Jeff O’Neill, Justin Williams, Tuomo Ruutu.
Defense: Glen Wesley, Justin Faulk, Joni Pitkanen, Brett Hedican, Tim Gleason, Niclas Wallin.
Goalie: Cam Ward, Arturs Irbe.
Coach: Peter Laviolette.
My line combinations and defense pairings that lean heavily on history
It is no surprise that the roster is heavy on players who were part of the team’s key playoff runs of 2002, 2006 and 2009. This makes it easy to build a lineup that largely pairs players who played together.
How about this for a lineup
Sami Kapanen / Ron Francis / Jeff O’Neill
This was the Canes top scoring line for the 2001-02 season which balanced nicely with Brind’Amour’s BBC line of Battaglia/Brind’Amour/Cole.
Ray Whitney / Rod Brind’Amour / Justin Williams
Ray Whitney actually spent more time next to Eric Staal over time including a great stretch in the 2009 playoffs, but he did play some next to Brind’Amour in the 2006 playoffs (mostly played with Cullen/LaRose during regular season) which makes this a good 2005-06 line.
Cory Stillman / Eric Staal / Erik Cole
To this day, I think this line from the 2005-06 season is the most dynamic in team history. No offense to Kapanen/Francis/O’Neill or Tlusty/EStaal/Semin from the lockout-shorted 2012-13 season, but coming out of the strike year, this line centered by a young Eric Staal was a sight to behold. With Stillman springing power forwards Staal and Cole, there was nothing opposing defenses could do to stop them. Eric Staal notched an astounding 45 goals in the 2005-06 and the Hurricanes only 100-point season. Eric Cole was also on pace for 40 goals when the Brooks Orpik hit ended his season early. One can make a really strong case that this trio is the best scoring line in Canes history.
Jeff Skinner / Matt Cullen / Tuomo Ruutu
I actually would have selected Jussi Jokinen by a small margin over Matt Cullen which would have made for a nice line that played and played well together to round out the roster. Skinner and Ruutu did have a run of great chemistry, and Matt Cullen is as versatile as they could and could easily center this uptempo line.
Glen Wesley / Bret Hedican
Despite being long-time Hurricanes and playing on both the 2002 and 2006 playoff teams, Wesley and Hedican saw very few shifts together. But for pairing up eras more so than actual partners on the blue line, I think this duo fits well as longtime steady, solid and unspectacular blue liners.
Joni Pitkanen / Tim Gleason
Like the first pairing, these 2 did not see a ton of ice time together but are both part of the 2009 team. And despite not playing together often, they had 1 incredibly memorable shift. In game 7 of the Hurricanes first round series with New Jersey with the Hurricanes down late in the game, Tim Gleason made a miraculous diving keep in at the offensive blue line that found Joni Pitkanen’s stick. Pitkanen then zipped a laser across to Jussi Jokinen who tied the game that the Hurricanes ultimately won.
Niclas Wallin / Justin Faulk
The only left-right pairing of the bunch features playoff hero Niclas Wallin and next-generation leader Justin Faulk. Faulk is 1 of only 2 (Jeff Skinner is the other) players on the all-time roster who have yet to play in a Hurricanes playoff game.
Cam Ward / Arturs Irbe
The duo of goalies covers the majority of Hurricanes playoff wins in the deep playoff runs of 2002, 2006 and 2009.
Not surprisingly, the coach for the 2006 Stanley Cup winners was voted to coach the all-time team.
Breakdown by era
2002 playoff team (9): Sami Kapanen, Ron Francis, Jeff O’Neill, Erik Cole, Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Bret Hedican, Niclas Wallin, Arturs Irbe.
2006 playoff team (11): Cory Stillman, Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Ray Whitney, Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams, Matt Cullen, Glen Wesley, Bret Hedican, Niclas Wallin, Cam Ward plus Coach Peter Laviolette.
2009 playoff team (10): Eric Staal, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Rod Brind’Amour, Matt Cullen, Tuomo Ruutu, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Niclas Wallin, Cam Ward.
Next generation/still with team (3): Cam Ward, Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner.
Here is hoping that we are very close to the next deep playoff run and the heroes that emerge from it!